Our children are digital natives. They are growing up in a world where online interaction is as important as face-to-face interaction. It is our duty to help them navigate the digital world. To do this, we have to be digital savvy parents; so that we can raise digital-savvy children.
As I like to say, no responsible parent would give their child car keys and drop them on the third mainland bridge without any training! It is the same with the internet and social media. Here is how we can teach our children how to navigate the online world.
We can raise digital-savvy children from birth and help them know how to use technology the right way. What matters is how they use digital devices and social media right.
Is screen time healthy for children?
This is a question that most parents ask. Screen time is the amount of time that someone spends using a device or computer, watching television or playing games. The impact of screen time on children’s wellbeing is still being debated. However, we know that too much screen time is turning children into technology junkies
Our kids regularly use digital devices in school, so we cannot ban them from being online. Instead, we should be focusing on teaching our kids how to use technology the right way. While we understand that they need to master technology to function in today’s world, we need to be mindful of screen addiction.
Not all screen time is unhealthy.
Screen time falls into four main categories:
1. Passive consumption – watching TV, reading, and listening to music.
2. Interactive consumption – playing games and browsing the internet.
3. Communication – chatting on video and using social media.
4. Content creation – using devices to make digital art or music.
How much screen time is enough for children?
W.H.O. recommends limited or no screen time for children under 5. In a new set of guidelines, the World Health Organization said that infants under 1 year old should not be exposed to electronic screens and that children between the ages of 2 and 4 should not have more than one hour of “sedentary screen time” each day.
Limiting, and in some cases eliminating, screen time for children under the age of 5 will result in healthier adults, the organization, a United Nations health agency, announced on Wednesday.
But taking away iPads and other electronic devices is only part of the solution, the researchers said. Children under 5 should also get more exercise and sleep in order to develop better habits that will stave off obesity and diseases in adolescence and adulthood.
How to raise digital-savvy children
While it is wise to limit children’s screen time (movies, video games, and even the internet) in the early years, especially as their brains continue to develop, sooner or later they are likely to want to venture online.
Have relevant conversations with your child
This is important for so many reasons as a parent, and it has special importance when your child is using social media. Become familiar with the sites your kids use online. Make it a point to talk with your kids about what they are doing online. Just like you know their offline friends, ask about the friends they have online.
It is also important to make sure you keep the lines of communication open with your children for another reason – so they know, without a doubt, you are a trusted person to go to and will have their back if something unanticipated happens such as cyberbullying. [Read: Distracted Parenting]
Teach your children to communicate politely online, and encourage them to limit their personal sharing.
It is important to be polite online just as it is offline. Help them know that even while they are being polite, it is not a good idea to share personal information with people online. Be specific about the kinds of information that they should not share online, whether it is their own information or information about family members. Social media etiquette is important.
Teach them how to respond to cyberbullying.
Let your children know that you will not allow someone to bully them (and that you will not allow them to bully someone else). Talk about some of the different forms cyberbullying takes, and go through how to respond to online bullying together.
Understand that actions have consequences.
It is good for our kids to learn that actions have natural results – and online this is just as true as ever. Help them to understand that once something is posted or e-mailed – they can not make it go away.
Teach them that it is good to err on the side of caution before posting. Suggest that they think in their mind, “what would happen if Mum saw it? Grandma? My teacher?” Because with the way social media works, more often than not these days, they absolutely will see it. Your child’s digital footprint can have lasting effects on their futures.
Limit who sees your child’s profile.
Go through your kids’ profiles online and make sure that you have limited who sees them. Every social media program has its own privacy settings – get familiar with them. Help your kids to understand why those settings are so important, and let them know what you expect in terms of the people they connect with online.
Tap into your child’s curiosity and help them combine digital skills with real-world learning.
As stated above, there are healthy ways to use digital devices. Teach your kids how and give them relevant opportunities to do this. You can always ask your kid to check out educational websites if they want help with their homework, or are looking for other fun activities. Many online resources are available to help your child with their projects and assignments. For a handy resource on Internet Safety read more here.
Think about how quickly news makes it onto the internet, or how quickly viral content gets shared on social media or WhatsApp. The content you see online is not always accurate; but how do you fact check to separate fake news from real news. One of the ways your children can do this is to learn to pause. Before acting on any content or news they see online, they can use the Google Fact checker to verify accuracy. Secondly, they should pay attention to the URL and make sure the news is from one or two reputable sources such as CNN or The Guardian etc. Many times blogs and other unregulated sources simply copy and paste any piece of news; without carrying any background checks for validity or accuracy.
Engage in Digital Activities That Teach Real Skills
Children can use the internet to build a creative world, master codes, or even study a foreign language. Experts recommend exploring these worlds together instead of letting them roam alone in the digital world.
Use devices together as a family.
Activities that involve movement or dancing, math, logic, and problem-solving are highly recommended. You can also find many other activities that include the whole family, like watching classic movies and then discussing it. Explore different ways like learning to code, constructing a computer together, or even working on graphic design projects that can help in increasing their imagination. Focus largely on what your child is achieving with the time spent online.
Raising digital-savvy children includes teaching them how to minimize their online risks and navigate the digital world positively. With a few tips and constant communication, you will raise children ready to embrace the technology of the 21st century.
Visit the technology and parenting category for more!
Get a free Digital Savvy Parent ebook Guide to get you started.